In the Midst of Historic Flu Season, Activists Rally for Earned Paid Sick Time

On the heels of an epic flu season, dozens of workers and health advocates braved the cold Thursday to rally for 'Earned Paid Sick Time' legislation recently introduced on Beacon Hill.

We’ve heard a lot about ways to protect ourselves during this particularly nasty flu season. Here are the basics: Get a flu shot. Wash your hands frequently. And if you’re sick? Stay home.

But for the million workers in Massachusetts who lack access to sick time, staying home isn’t an option. These employees have to go to work when they’re sick or risk losing their jobs -- exposing customers and coworkers to illness in the process. For many low-wage workers at chains like Dunkin’ Donuts, a missed paycheck due to the flu is something they simply cannot afford.

That’s why dozens of workers and health advocates braved the cold Thursday to rally for the Earned Paid Sick Time bill. In the shadow of the State House, protestors picketed outside Dunkin’ Donuts to call attention to the lack of paid sick leave for many Bay State workers.

Among the protestors was Michael Habib, who has been working at Dunkin’ Donuts for almost 5 years. In all that time, Habib has never taken a sick day — even when he had a 102 degree fever. It isn’t just a matter of sacrificing a paycheck, Habib says, taking a sick day can mean losing your job or facing retribution.

Access to sick leave isn’t just a public health issue — it’s also an economic one. A recent study revealed that earned sick time would save Massachusetts employers $26 million annually as a result of lower turnover, increased worker productivity and reduced spread of contagious disease in the workplace.

In the midst of the worst flu season in a decade, it’s more critical than ever that we focus on achieving paid sick time for working families in Massachusetts. After all, no one wants flu germs in their morning coffee.

To learn how you can take action, visit the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition.

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